Energy pal named to Interior post
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MARCH 9, 2001

A former political appointee of President Reagan who once predicted California would plunge into an energy crisis unless the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and coastal areas off California and Florida were opened up to oil and gas development was announced as Deputy Secretary of Interior on Thursday.

"To those who say that Alaska, in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and that California and . . . the Florida keys should be the last place we should look, I agree," said J. Steven Griles more than 10 years ago.

"That's why we're looking," he added. "These are important national resources that have to be developed so that we can move on and have national security."

To the group of energy executives who invited Griles to their luncheon back in 1987, his words were music to their ears. During his years at the Interior, Griles sought to make development of millions of acres of public lands easier.

He didn't always succeed, however. Californians and Floridians eventually instituted moratoriums on offshore oil drilling, despite Griles' protestations that both states would be "cutting their own throats" by doing so.

But with California and the West suffering from power woes just as he so eerily predicted and Florida Governor Jeb Bush pleading with his brother to maintain the development ban, Griles now probably feels vindicated. With a business-friendly administration and a Republican-controlled Congress now in place, he also enters a world where environmental policies once attacked as destructive are slowly being considered the norm.

Like Gale Norton, Griles entered the Interior Department under controversial former Secretary James Watt. Along with Norton, he weathered Watt's storm, serving in a number of positions at Interior until he left government for the private sector in 1989.

He didn't leave Capitol Hill entirely behind, though. He opened up two lobbying firms and raked in more than $1 million in 1998 alone from big energy companies and organizations like Occidental Petroleum, Shell Oil, and the National Mining Association.

Pending confirmation by the Senate, Griles will soon be back where he started. As second in command at the Interior, he'll be responsible for making policy and administrative decisions affecting the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service.

Perhaps more importantly, he'll be helping direct the US Geological Survey's new mission of convincing the American public that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge can be developed without harming the environment. In announcing his nomination yesterday, Norton hinted of their future on the issue.

"Steve will bring enormous institutional knowledge as well as extensive experience in bringing all voices together to turn environmental and energy conflicts into sound solutions," said Norton.

Age: 53, Married
Education: B.A., University of Richmond
Executive Assistant Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Economic Development in Richmond: 1970 to 1981.
Deputy Director of the Office of Surface Mining: 1981 to 1983. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Water: 1983 to 1984.
Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals Management under President Reagan: 1984 to 1989.
Currently: President of J. Steven Griles & Associates LLC, and a principal of National Environmental Strategies.

Lobbying Data on J. Steven Griles:
1998 | 1999 (Compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics)